'Couples counselling saved my marriage'

Diana and Sol tried couples therapy when their marriage was in trouble.

Diana, 36, was aware there was increasing conflict in her marriage. She felt more and more dissatisfied and the relationship was deteriorating.

"My husband, Sol, and I were having angry, loud arguments, mainly about the fact that I felt very put upon," says Diana. 

"I was working from home as a freelance administration assistant, bringing up our three-year-old son, doing most of the housework, and I was constantly worn out. Sol spent his evenings with his feet up in front of the TV watching the football.

"The last straw was when the food shopping we'd ordered online was delivered one evening. I was busy working on the computer and asked Sol if he could unpack the bags.

"Three hours later, I walked into the hallway and found it all still sitting there, even the frozen foods. I was furious.

"I'd reached the point where I wanted to end our marriage, but Sol didn't want us to split up."

We decided to talk through our problems

"I said the only way I'd consider staying together was on the condition that we talked our problems through with a professional relationships counsellor. Sol agreed immediately.

"That may seem surprising, and I'm sure many men are reluctant to try couples therapy, but Sol is African and in his culture it's perfectly normal to call in a third party for advice when a marriage is in trouble.

"I knew about Relate and looked online for a counsellor. I found a local woman and called to make an appointment. She was quite businesslike on the phone. It was a short conversation to arrange a meeting a few days later.

"We met the counsellor for the first time at her office. It was a simple room, but nicely furnished with potted plants and cushions. She'd taken care to make it feel cosy and not intimidating.

"She sat us down and explained the purpose of Relate, and then asked us both to describe why we felt we'd reached the point of asking for help and what we each wanted to achieve.

"We both said that we wanted to come away from the sessions better able to deal with our anger and the arguments we had."

Airing our marital concerns helped us

"During the sessions, we each talked in turn about our grievances and concerns. Having a neutral person there who wasn't judgemental kept our discussions civilised and calm. We could talk about our feelings without getting very angry, disagreeing or shouting. And it forced us to listen to each other.

"Neither of us felt inhibited talking about our marital problems to a complete stranger. That's probably because we trusted her and felt we were in a safe environment.

"She never took sides or gave advice. It was more a case of prompting us to talk and occasionally asking a question. Often she sat back for quite long periods of time simply listening as we both talked.

"We had six sessions, and we both felt it really helped us. Well, it must have done as we decided to stay together and give the marriage another go.

"It helped us communicate better with each other, especially when we felt angry, and we both came away having made an agreement that we would respect each other and work more as a team.

"It also made us realise how much we cared for each other. We'd always known that, I suppose, but the counselling sessions meant we were able to renew our feelings for each other. I'd certainly recommend relationship counselling to any couple in crisis."

How to get couples counselling

Couples counselling isn't always available on the NHS, unless one partner – or both – has a mental health problem, such as depression, that has a significant impact on the relationship.

However, therapy is widely available from private therapists and charities, such as Relate, although you will have to pay for these services.

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